Eric Balderas, age 19, was recently arrested by ICE (US Immigration & Customs Enforcement) for being in the US illegally. While the arrest of another undocumented immigrant may not be unusually newsworthy, the fact that Balderas is currently a sophomore at Harvard University makes it so. Balderas, a Mexican citizen, was facing deportation before US Senator Richard Durbin of IL, intervened on his behalf.
Balderas was taken into custody on June 7 in San Antonio, as he was boarding a plane back to school in Boston after visiting his mother.
Balderas’s story is another tough one concerning very young children who are either smuggled into the US or are kept here after their authorized period of stay runs out. After years of being raised in the US, sometimes even being told that they were born here and are US citizens, they are often shocked when forced to return home to a place that they don’t remember or understand. In Balderas’s case, he was brought to the US from Mexico when he was just four. His parents kept him here and he eventually graduated from a San Antonio area high school as valedictorian.
According to ICE, Balderas has been granted deferred action, which federal immigration officials have the discretion to use to delay execution of deportation. It is unclear how long the deferment will last for. Under deferred action, a foreign national is permitted to stay in the US, get a work permit and, like in Balderas’s case, stay in school. Deferred action is also renewable.
ICE has a history of granting deferred action where college students are facing deportation.
In 2001, Senator Durbin cosponsored the Dream Act, a law that would enable young immigrants like Balderas to apply for a green card. The legislation is still pending.